BE FREE OF DISTRACTIONS

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time            

            In the fourth century, among the Desert Fathers one of the brothers desperately wanted to have a wife. All his companions in the community tried to persuade the young brother not to get married. Finally, the young brother did leave the monastery and get married.

            Years passed, and one day a monk from the monastery saw the young brother and asked him about his wife and about being married. The young man was greatly troubled, told how hard it was to satisfy his wife; that because she had so many wants, he spent all his time trying to please her and had no time for prayer and for the things of God. 

            The story from the Desert Fathers somehow illustrates the message of St. Paul in today’s second reading from his First Letter to the Corinthians According to Paul, a married man is anxious about pleasing his wife, and a married woman is anxious about pleasing her husband. Not God, but things of the world hold priority for the married person, so says Paul.

            But do not turn Paul off. Not yet. Paul thought the Second Coming of Christ was just a few days off, a few months, or at most a few years. And with the return of Jesus so imminent, Paul says to concentrate on God, and only on God.

            Let this be clear: Paul was not against marriage. In fact, Paul was a good Jew; and for a Jew, marriage was a religious obligation. As a Jew, Paul believed when God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply.

            However, as I have already said, the thinking of Paul when he wrote this Letter is that that there was little time left. Clyde Bonar, in his book Amen, I Say to You, has this commentary: “Paul thought that long before a husband and wife could come to the deep agape love, only possible in marriage, long before a couple could have and enjoy children, Jesus would return in his glory.” So, what Paul is saying is this: “Live in Christ with undivided hearts, adhere to the Lord without distraction.” “Do not get married, there is no time left for living together as man and wife.” “Rather, let the love of God be on your minds and in your hearts, make your commitment to Christ total.”

            Let us heed Paul’s advice: “Be free of distractions. Live in Christ with total commitment.” Just think of the so many distractions and diversions we are bombarded with every moment of everyday: the attractive, suggestive, and seductive things we see… the captivating, exciting, and alluring messages we hear… the worldly entertainments promoted by commercialism… the lifestyle of the rich and famous we covet or envy… even the various ‘spiritualities’ that are popular today. Being distracted also take the form of: Being so busy with our own projects, plans, and ambitions – so much so that we ignore our God-given mission. Being so preoccupied with our own agenda and interests – so much so that we set aside the agenda of the Kingdom. Being so crowded and cluttered by materialism and worldliness – so much so that we disregard the gospel values of poverty, simplicity, and trust in the divine providence. Being so engaged in our self-made trivialities and superficialities – so much so that we trivialize the profound truths about God and our relationship with him, about life and human dignity, about destiny and eternity, about vocation and mission, about sex and marriage.

            Indeed, we are distracted, we are tempted to divert our attention from what truly matters in life, from doing the will of God, from following the way of Christ, from performing our mission. Being free of distractions and diversions is ultimately about “making room for God” and about doing God’s will in everything. It is about the things we think of, the words we say, the choices we make, the decisions we carry out, the actions we take, the places we go to, the things we value, the priorities we make… everything must be about doing God’s will.

            St. Paul is exhorting us to live with a heavenly perspective. We must not remain entrenched in our earthly goals, or else, we will lose our heavenly perspective. We have been redeemed! We are destined for heaven, to sit in glory with Jesus! We are children of God and have incomparable dignity! When we see every detail of our lives in light of these truths, it changes the way we approach each day: how we think, the choices we make, and the priorities we pursue.

            Again, my dear friends, let us heed Paul’s advice: “Live in Christ with undivided hearts, adhere to the Lord without distraction.”           

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